The recent mass shootings in America are a disturbing phenomenon. Some of the statistics on US gun violence reveal how mass shootings and other firearm incidents have become a routine in a country with nearly as many guns as people.
Data reveals that nearly 53 people are killed each day by a firearm in the US. It is obvious now that more Americans die in gun homicides and suicides every six months than have died in the last two decades in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.
According to research by PolitiFact, a project run by Tampa Bay Times to check the truth in US politics, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in the US between 1968 and 2011 compared to 1.2 million US deaths in all wars ever fought by the country.
Former President Barack Obama while facing staunch opposition to his desire for tighter gun laws asked the media to compare the number of US citizens killed by terrorism to those killed by gun violence.
Obama revealed that the US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people in comparison to those killed by ordinary gun crime (BBC World, October-2015).
According to the FBI, there were 345 “active shooter incidents” in the US between 2000-2020, resulting in more than 1,024 deaths and 1,828 injuries. The deadliest such attack, in Las Vegas in 2017, killed more than 50 people and left 500 wounded.
The vast majority of mass shootings, however, leave fewer than 30 people dead.
With such an alarming state of affairs in a hegemon nation like the US, the spread of unbridled violence in the rest of the world can be well imagined. The guns manufactured to get people killed in other parts of the world are backfiring.
The gun culture perpetuated by the US in the outside world is eating up its own people. The booming gun industry is presenting a predicament. Today, guns outnumber the masses in the US. There are more guns than people living in the US. Sounds atrocious.
Interestingly, as guns have turned into mortal monsters, more death-defying than any terrorist (by the definition of the US), they are also considered a source of entertainment, sport and self-defense for millions of Americans.
In 2015, following a mass shootout at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, the morning edition of the Charleston Post & Courier carried the news on its front page but had a sticky note Ad attached to it on the same day that was about the ‘Ladies Night at a particular gun shop’.
The Ad promised a pistol or revolver, and 50 rounds of ammo for use on the shooting range, including eye and ear protection.
The paradoxical situation has reached a brim where newspaper editorials advocate a humdrum approach to handling such a tricky issue. The Economist wrote, “Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard mass shootings the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing”.
Intellectuals and policymakers in the US cannot afford to draw such a trivial analogy. It makes zero sense. Air pollution and gun violence are divergent problems.
One is a health hazard and the latter a life hazard. Perhaps the continuity of mass killings has led to the normalisation of such happenings. The pain and rage over a period have started turning into a general practice that is eventually getting lost in the din.
It has been complicated by the failure of leaders and politicians to push for a national debate on the gun control agenda, without being cornered by any lobbying political fringe.
For the US, the architect of the war on terror, the moral dilemma is getting murkier with rising internal gun violence. While the US terms outsiders as wicked “suicide bombers” indoctrinated by a particular belief system, their own homegrown mass shooters strive for a label today.
For Americans, they are not terrorists, they are “the pseudocommando—a type of mass murderer who kills in public during the daytime plans his offence well in advance and comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons.
He has no escape planned and expects to be killed during the incident”. Research in the US suggests that the “pseudocommando” is driven by strong feelings of anger and resentment, flowing from beliefs about being persecuted or grossly mistreated (Journal of American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law).
Therefore, the plausible reasons given for a “pseudocommando” to be a mass murderer are his ‘anger and resentment’ and a calling for better mental health care. Whilst the “Fidayeen” have no such ‘research’ to back up their discontent, their revulsion is inevitably related to their religion! Strange logic.
They say dictators contain the seeds of their own destruction. So do guns. They contain the bullets for their makers. When guns roar, they don’t listen to anything or anyone. Guns have proven to be the shippers of death in the world. Bullets come recoiling. Bullets carry retribution. Sooner or later.
If a gun is supplied and smuggled to wreak havoc everywhere else, how can it spare its source? It’s high time, not the only US, but all other nation-states who champion violence for their own designs, stop playing with human lives.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK